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Wildlife using completed Gold Creek underpasses

Merganser ducks swimming safely under I-90 in the Gold Creek underpass. Credit: WSDOT

This summer, the Washington Department of Transportation has documented wildlife ranging from ducks to coyotes utilizing the newly completed wildlife underpasses at Gold Creek.  These two wildlife underpasses were part of the first phase of construction in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, and facilitate not only safer movement of wildlife but also allow a restored flow for the creek itself which is home to a resident population of bull trout.  Click here to view the images as posted by I-90 Wildlife Watch supporting organization Conservation Northwest.

Designs will be finalized for the next phase of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project this year to facilitate construction next field season.  This next 1.5 mile phase will include the first wildlife overpass.  Until then, enjoy seeing wildlife already begin to use the structures that have been completed.

Second annual report released

As we enter our third year of I-90 Wildlife Watch, we have summarized the results of our project’s second full year from November 2011 through November 2012 into an annual report.  In our second year, over 2,000 visitors reported 282 valid (i.e. presumed authentic) wildlife sightings made in the survey area, comprising a total of 241 live and 41 dead animals.

“We are thrilled that a full year after our project’s launch there continues to be interest from motorists in reporting what they see from their cars as they drive I-90 in the project area,” said Jen Watkins, project coordinator with I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition.  “The people submitting reports on our site are not only contributing to biologists and planners knowledge of wildlife presence in this important landscape, but providing a human perspective on their experience through their comments.”

Reports represented 15 mammal species, including deer, elk, black bears, cougars, coyotes, foxes, otters, mice, hare, raccoons, skunks, woodrats and one cow, as well as several bird species. In one report from 2012, the motorist reported that the animal “Was in the roadway, I put my flashers on to alert the driver behind me. The coyote moved safely into the median.”

During our second year several events stood out, catching not only motorists’ attention but our own.  During last year’s Memorial Day weekend, a black bear attempting to cross the busy highway near Hyak on Sunday morning didn’t make it: the 250-pound male was killed by a vehicle in the eastbound lanes after reportedly navigating westbound traffic. The vehicle immediately drove away, and the bear’s carcass was collected by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife – which reported it would use the hide for classroom education.

Then, in August 2012, several people informed us that a cougar was struck by a vehicle on I-90 east of North Bend during the evening.  This upsetting incident was apparently witnessed by many motorists, some of whom reportedly slowed or stopped their vehicles to investigate the scene and protect the animal from further trauma. The cougar, which was bleeding from the head, sat dazed in the roadway and was apparently fatally injured. Coincidentally, the collision occurred within a mile or two of a live cougar crossing reported to I-90 Wildlife Watch in July.

Our second year produced more live wildlife sightings along Interstate 90 than dead reports, but the unsuccessful crossing of animals over Interstate 90 is a reminder of the safety risks posed to both wildlife and motorists when roadways cut through wildlife habitats.  Within the I-90 Wildlife Watch project area, the Washington State Department of Transportation is working to create safer passage for people and wildlife through the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.  Beyond providing data and a narrative to wildlife approaching and attempting to cross Interstate 90, the motorists reporting wildlife sightings are directly informing department as they construct and monitor this project.

“I-90 Wildlife Watch helps the Washington State Department of Transportation by tapping into several thousand sets of eyes as commuters traverse Snoqualmie Pass,” stated Craig Broadhead, South Central Region WSDOT biologist. “This citizen science effort provides invaluable information to help us tailor objectives and ultimately define success regarding the restoration of ecological connectivity on the I-90 Project.”

Results from the project’s second year are provided in a report on our Maps and Results page, as are acknowledgements to the many individuals and organizations that have made this project possible and a description of changes that are underway to the project in our third year.

Direct link to our Year 2 Annual Report:  http://i90wildlifewatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/2011-12_I90WildlifeWatchAnnualReport.pdf

New video about I-90 Wildlife Watch

In collaboration with our colleagues at the Washington Department of Transportation, we have created a fun new video about I-90 Wildlife Watch. The video, which is only a few minutes in length, uses colorful hand-drawn images and upbeat narration to convey why it’s important to improve habitat connections for wildlife at Snoqualmie Pass–and how motorists can help. Please watch the video on YouTube here, and share it widely with your friends. Thanks for helping to spread the word for wildlife!

Sad news: cougar struck by vehicle

Several people have informed us that a cougar was struck by a vehicle on I-90 east of North Bend on Thursday evening, August 16. This upsetting incident was apparently witnessed by many motorists, some of whom reportedly slowed or stopped their vehicles to investigate the scene and protect the animal from further trauma. The cougar, which was bleeding from the head, sat dazed in the roadway and was apparently fatally injured. Coincidentally, the collision occurred within a mile or two of a live cougar crossing reported to I-90 Wildlife Watch in July; perhaps this was even the same animal. Regardless, yet another animal has come to a tragic end as it tried to make its way across the I-90 corridor. Although this particular incident occurred west of the wildlife crossing structures being constructed in the Snoqualmie Pass area, these structures will undoubtedly help prevent many such tragedies in the future.

Rare cougar sighting on I-90

During the busy weekend preceding the 4th of July, a bold cougar apparently decided to try his or her luck and ran into traffic along I-90. The sighting, made around 11pm during a hard rain, was reported by a motorist who was fortunately able to avoid a collision–and then couldn’t believe what she had seen. She reported that a cougar with a “VERY long tail…was just running across the road, and from nose to tail took up the whole width of the lane.” The motorist was traveling eastbound and the cougar entered the roadway from the south, meaning that it would next have to cross the median and traverse the westbound lanes (or turn around). To our knowledge, the crossing was a success–at least this time.  But it’s comforting to know that wildlife crossing structures and fencing will eventually provide a much safer and easier means for cougars and other animals to make their way across the I-90 corridor. The photo below shows a cougar captured by remote camera near Snoqualmie Pass. Maybe it’s even the same animal that decided to chance the highway on that rainy night in late June!

Cougar near Snoqualmie Pass. Credit: WTI

Please help us spread the word: PSA, poster, and Facebook

With summer now in full gear (pardon the transportation pun), we’re ramping up our efforts to spread the word about I-90 Wildlife Watch. For example, we’ll be running PSAs on a number of regional radio stations this summer; you can listen to our 30-second PSA here. We’re also distributing posters and flyers throughout the region, and would greatly appreciate your posting a flyer at your office or in your community. To download a flyer, click on the image below. And remember to visit our Facebook page and tell your friends about it, too. Most importantly, don’t forget to keep your eyes open for wildlife and drive safely on I-90 this summer!

I-90 Wildlife Watch flyer

Black bear killed near Hyak on Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day weekend is infamous for its traffic, and I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass is no exception. Sadly, a black bear attempting to cross the busy highway near Hyak on Sunday morning didn’t make it: the 250-pound male was killed by a vehicle in the eastbound lanes after reportedly navigating westbound traffic (see photo below). The vehicle immediately drove away, and the bear’s carcass  was collected by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife–which will use the hide for classroom education. I-90 Wildlife Watch received several other reports this weekend as well, including 3 live deer and 2 dead raccoons. With wildlife on the move and many more busy summer days to come, please be especially careful when you’re traveling the I-90 corridor. And don’t forget to report your wildlife sightings here.

Black Bear_Washington State Patrol_2012

A black bear killed by a vehicle on I-90 near Hyak, on Memorial Day weekend (2012). Photo: Washington State Patrol

I-90 Wildlife Watch launches Facebook page!

I-90 Wildlife Watch recently launched a Facebook page to share exciting updates with our supporters.  Please take a minute to visit the page, and to indicate that you “like” it.

We will use our Facebook page to post interesting wildlife sightings and photos from the I-90 corridor, new reports and analyses from the project, and reminders to travelers to keep their eyes peeled for wildlife when driving between North Bend and Easton.

Now that Spring is here and animals are moving through their habitats, please be especially cautious when you’re driving across the Cascades. And don’t forget to tell your friends about I-90 Wildlife Watch and our new Facebook page!

Watch video about summer construction on I-90

WSDOT has created an artistic new video about construction efforts at I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East this summer, which will include work on wildlife crossing structures. You can view the video here.

I-90 Wildlife Watch receives more media coverage in the region

Following the release of our first annual report, I-90 Wildlife Watch has received media coverage in a number of venues–including Seattle King 5 News and the Yakima Herald. This coverage will no doubt help raise the visibility of the project, and thus the number of people looking for and reporting wildlife on I-90!